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EU faults Turkey for protest clashes, urges reform

BRUSSELS — The European Commission criticized Turkey on Wednesday for what it calls ‘‘an uncompromising stance’’ against dissent and a failure to protect fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and assembly.

In a long-awaited report on Turkey’s progress toward gaining EU membership, the bloc’s executive arm stressed the country can’t rely alone on the rule of the majority but must seek to include minorities and respect and defend their rights.

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Turkey’s tough stance on dissenting opinion became obvious this year ‘‘when police used excessive force in response to a major wave of protests,’’ the commission said.

The protests began in May and turned into widespread demonstrations against the heavy-handed crackdown and against conservative Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian ways after a decade in power.

The commission said Turkey’s political climate had become polarized and that ‘‘this translated into an understanding of democracy as relying exclusively on parliamentary majority, rather than a participative process in which all voices are heard, and finally in an uncompromising stance in the face of dissent and a failure to protect fundamental rights and freedoms.’’

The report also criticized Turkey’s legal framework, the judiciary, and frequent political intimidation that contribute to curbing freedom of expression. But the commission also welcomed Turkey’s progress on some judicial reforms and the efforts to seek a lasting peace agreement with Kurdish rebels and strengthen the group’s minority rights.

The European Union started negotiations with Turkey in 2005 despite skepticism among some of its member states to see a big Muslim nation join the predominantly Christian bloc. Since then, Turkey’s accession talks have made relatively little progress because of its territorial dispute with EU member Cyprus.

The next session of the EU talks will focus on regional policies, one of 35 chapters for aspiring members to address.

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